VSC trustees get earful from Lyndon community

Published: Sep. 12, 2019 at 5:58 PM EDT
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The Vermont State College system is facing some tough choices.

Falling enrollment and revenues means cuts to faculty, staff and programs. But so far, that's not enough to balance the books. So the Vermont State College Chancellor and Board of Trustees are on a listening tour, visiting each campus. Thursday, at least 200 people packed a community room at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon to have their say.

VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding says they are hearing the community's concerns. "Today's meeting absolutely made it crystal clear to the chair of the Board of Trustees, other trustees and the Chancellor how important NVU-Lyndon is to this region of the state, and how much people care about it and how much people want to roll in their sleeves and help ensure its success into the future," Spaulding said.

VSC Board of Trustees Chair Church Hindes told those in attendance that the time has come to act. "The only decision that we've made, is that we have to make a decision," he said.

But which decisions to make are still unclear. Students, faculty, staff and community members spoke for over two hours, reminding the chancellor and trustees that whatever happens to the school impacts not only them but the entire region.

"I just wanted to say how important this campus is to the life of our town, to the Northeast Kingdom," said David Stahler of Wheelock.

"It would be a tragedy to do anything like that -- to shut down, close down," said Ronald Howland of Lyndonville.

Business owners like Kim Crady-Smith said they want transparency in the decision making process. "I just hope that you look towards the future with an innovative and creative eye and energy for figuring out how to make things work without destroying what we already have," she said.

Pat Shine has taught at the college for 17 years. She says the turnout at Thursday's meeting is the largest she's ever seen for a meeting like this. She hopes faculty have a say in what happens next. "I'm hoping we're really part of the process," she said.

Many students told the trustees they're worried about rumors that NVU-Lyndon would become an online-only school. "It's sad to think that I might not be able to come back. I do have a plan B, but I don't want to use that plan B," said Curtis Bates, a sophomore.

Chancellor Spaulding says there are multiple options on the table for all VSC schools. He says the planning committee will make recommendations for consideration in mid-October. If any decisions need to be made by the Board of Trustees, that would happen by the end of the year.

Spaulding added that rumors about the VSC system not being able to make payroll this month are false. He blamed a new payroll system for causing a delay for some checks. He says that those who need help with payroll or benefits should contact following emails: